Ohio University. Bird Arena. The home to many of the great battles between these two storied ACHA programs. The Icers come in as the #1 team in the nation, but Ohio is not far behind at #5. If the rankings, rivalry, and the fact that this could very likely be the last meeting between these two teams weren't enough, the Bobcats entered the weekend still undefeated at home this season. Although the ACHA National Tournament is still over a month away, these two games proved to have all the emotion and atmosphere of playoff games past and perhaps still to come.
|#1 PENN STATE||0||0||2||2|
|#5 Ohio University||1||0||0||1|
|PSU Goals: Holstrom (x2)|
Out of the gate, this game was high energy and fast action. The two teams went back and forth with opportunities and momentum, big hits and big saves. With just under 7 minutes left in the first period, the Bobcats would break through, as Ohio's Zack Barbis would find a soft spot in a scrambling Penn State defense, putting home an easy centering feed. The Bobcats nearly made it 2-0 just moments later, but PJ Musico came up big on an Ohio breakaway attempt. Perhaps the most important aspect of the game for both teams was the penalty kill. Penalties were abundant in the first and second periods, but neither team could capitalize as each team was 8-for-8 in killing penalties. That would help keep the score 1-0 into the third period. Closing in on 12 minutes left in the game, Rich O'Brien's outlet pass found Taylor Holstrom, who fended off an Ohio defender and deked the goalie to tie the game at 1-1. That wouldn't be the last for Holstrom on this night. With less than 5 minutes left in the game, Taylor would pick up the puck in the defensive zone, skate coast-to-coast, and slip the puck past a slightly out-of-position Bobcat goaltender to give the Icers their first lead of the game. That second goal really took the wind out of the Bobcats' sails, as Ohio would be unable to generate any real offensive chances for the rest of the game. PJ Musico continued his dominant play as of late, helping lead the Icers to a big 2-1 victory.
|#1 PENN STATE||2||1||1||4|
|#5 Ohio University||1||0||0
PSU Goals: Saad (x2), Sweetland, Kirchhevel
Looking to make it a perfect 4-0 season sweep against the Bobcats, the Icers turned to Matt Madrazo for the Saturday night game. But a little over two minutes into the game, a Ohio slapshot from the point would be deflected behind Madrazo, giving the Bobcats an early 1-0 lead. The Icers would pick up the offensive pressure, however, and George Saad would wrist home a goal to tie the game at 1-1. Late in the period, the Icers would finally break through on the powerplay, as Pete Sweetland would get his first goal as an Icer, giving Penn State the 2-1 lead. The second period mirrored Friday night's second period, where both teams would get powerplay but fail to convert. With 6:25 left in the period, Saad would benefit from falling behind the play, as he would end up with a breakaway and his second goal of the game. Not wanting to get swept, the Bobcats came out with the energy and pressure to start the period. But the defense and Matt Madrazo would not be beat, keeping it 3-1 Icers. Late in the period, the Icers would crack the Bobcats pressure, and Justin Kirchhevel would score on the breakaway, putting the icing on a 4-1 Icers victory and a season sweep of the Bobcats.
Season Record and ACHA Ranking: 21-3-1 (20-2-1 ACHA), ranked #1 in the ACHA
News, Notes, Observations: Coming out of this weekend, there's little to discuss as good/bad/otherwise for this team. This really just means that the team has continued their solid play from the past few weekends. Credit to the Bobcat penalty kill, which was very aggressive and disrupted the Icers' power play 14 out of 15 times. (Of course, that one Icers powerplay goal ended up being the game-winner on Saturday.) But outside of a lackluster powerplay, the Icers looked solid offensively - finding ways to sustain pressure and get quality opportunities against a solid Ohio team. The defense did well to shut down most of the OU chances, and kept their turnovers to a real minimum. And both goaltenders played outstanding to hold the Bobcats to just one goal each game. In fact, in the four-game season sweep for the Icers, they outscored Ohio, 18-6.
The Icers return home next weekend, where they'll hunker in for the entire month of February. Next weekend, the Icers welcome the Oklahoma Sooners to the Greenberg Ice Pavilion for the first time. The following weekend is Alumni Weekend for the Icers, where they will induct 7 new members into the Icers' Hall of Fame. There will be regular games that weekend, too, as Mercyhurst will be in town for a set of games. The season ends on back-to-back Friday-only weekends, with Duquesne in first before closing the regular season with Kent State.
Some Love for the Ladies: The rankings remained unkind to the Lady Icers, as they only moved up one spot to #11, even after an impressive split with highly-ranked Northeastern. Chugging forward, the ladies welcomed #5 Liberty to the Greenberg, with the hopes of starting a winning streak of their own. If the Lady Icers were looking to make one last impression on the ACHA, they started nicely with a dominating 5-1 win over Liberty in the Saturday game. The energy and dominance continued into the Sunday game, except for the one place that matters - the scoreboard. The Lady Icers outshot Liberty but Penn State would be on the losing side for this game, losing a by a close 3-2 score. The ladies finish the season with road trips to #4 Northeastern, #6 UMass, and a home weekend finale against lowly-ranked Vermont.
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